Because November is the month of All Souls, it may be of some value to consider the current trends in dealing with the commending, honoring and praying for those beloved among us who pass away.
In some cases, certainly not all, the trend to delete the Catholic funeral Mass, calling hours at a funeral home and the increasing preference for cremation seem to foster the approach of “making it all easier for everybody.”
It especially makes things easier for members of the family of the late practicing Catholic, who are not into the practice of a faith.
While childbirth is messy and baptism is wet, there is an odd desire to disconnect with the body of the deceased at their passing. We seldom even use the words died or dead anymore — folks just “pass” and we celebrate their life.
Someone has said the way we carry out our responsibilities to the bodies of the dead is a clue as to how we treat the bodies of the living.
Although cremation is allowed and has been for several years in the Catholic church, many of the clergy will admit that cremation following the body present at the funeral Mass, is much preferred. We believe the corporeal body, baptized and anointed, has been a temple, a dwelling place for God’s Spirit — a small box or porcelain jar at the actual funeral Mass could convey a weak symbol.
Having the evidence of death present for several hours at a funeral home visitation, placed before the altar in church for the service, finally the journey coming to the place of burial causes us to face death in the face — in order to proclaim again the power of God over death’s sentence.
Maybe our attempts to make things easier for everybody at the time of the “passing” of a loved one is a symptom of our culture’s intense wish to avoid even thinking about death for the faithful Christian, death is but the journey —the moment that brings us to life that is eternal.
What the Vatican says
The Vatican has issued a document on christian burial and cremations stating: “The reservation of the ashes of the departed in sacred places ensures that they are not excluded from the prayers and remembrance of their family or the Christian community. It prevents the faithful departed from being forgotten, or their remains from being shown a lack of respect, which in eventuality is possible, most especially once the immediately subsequent generation has, too, passed away. Also, it prevents any unfitting or superstitious practices. For the reasons given above, the conservation of the ashes of the departed in a domestic residence is not permitted. The ashes may not be divided among various family members and due respect must be maintained regarding the circumstances of such a conservation.